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 U.S. Department of Labor awarded the state of Minnesota $19.5 million to expand program that seeks to help workers suffering from injury or illness stay in the workforce

An effort supported by Mayo Clinic to help more injured Minnesotans be able to return to work has received a major boost.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the state of Minnesota $19.5 million to expand an innovative program that seeks to help workers suffering from injury or illness stay in the workforce. The program is called the Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network, or RETAIN. The funding will support program enrollment for an estimated 3,200 injured or ill workers from Minnesota over the next four years. The timing for the grant is especially critical, as a growing number of Minnesotans are struggling to recover from post-COVID-19 syndrome.

“This program allows us to intervene early and connect with these workers so they can get the assistance they need to return to work safely. RETAIN brings together a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders to support Minnesota’s workforce,” says Laura Breeher, M.D., medical director of Occupational Health Services at Mayo Clinic and medical co-director of the Minnesota RETAIN program.

Too often workers who are injured drop out of the workforce because returning to work can seem too overwhelming. This program seeks to ease that transition by assigning all participants a return-to-work case manager. The case manager works with the workers’ health care providers and employers to ensure a smooth transition back to work. The case manager also can help workers get connected with the workforce development agency nearest them for job skills training or career counseling if it’s necessary to shift to a different type of job.

Mayo Clinic is collaborating on this program with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the lead state agency for the Minnesota RETAIN program, as well as the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, and Workforce Development, Inc.

This recent grant builds on a successful pilot of the Minnesota RETAIN program. The first phase of the program involved helping 150 injured workers in Southeast Minnesota. Most of those workers safely returned to their jobs or received the skills training necessary to transition to other jobs.

As part of the expansion, Mayo Clinic will collaborate with health care providers across the state to connect patients with the Minnesota RETAIN program. This program also offers education to health care providers and employers.

“One of the weak links in health care as it pertains to getting individuals back to work is a lack of training for certain providers about how to appropriately manage work restrictions. Part of what we do is offer education to colleagues across multiple specialties,” says Clayton Cowl, M.D., chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic and co-medical director for the Minnesota RETAIN program.

Enrollment in phase two of the Minnesota RETAIN program is expected to begin in early fall.


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